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An adaptation built for a new century with laughs that will last

Metromaniacs Photo by Scott Suchman
Metromaniacs – Photo: Scott Suchman

Adaptations can be a minefield. Handled poorly, it’s like slapping a coat of Duron on a Hepplewhite. Yet in the right hands and for the right reasons, a skilled and intelligent adaptation can put the gloss on an antique that might otherwise go forever unnoticed.

Such is happily the case with David Ives’ joyous re-working of Alexis Piron’s 18th century comedy The Metromaniacs (starstarstarstar), which takes some of its premise from a red-hot literary scandal of the day. Ives’ adaptation shares this comical irreverence with an update that is so current it’s almost in through the out door. Some may balk — but really, that’s the point.


“Director Michael Kahn keeps it boisterously on the boil and so well-crafted you will only lose the plot when you are supposed to.”


But don’t be deceived by the frothy fun. Ives is a poet in his own right, crafting his couplets like a rapper with a doctorate and you will be lucky if you can keep up with the word play and references. This is also a skillful re-work of Prion’s (by today’s standards) rather unhinged dramatic structure and Ives neatly orders the disorder of the numerous sub-plots, false identities and general absurdities.

The result is a complex ensemble piece and director Michael Kahn keeps it boisterously on the boil and so well-crafted you will only lose the plot when you are supposed to. Perfectly-pitched, Adam LeFevre brings a comic antiquity to Francalou, the elder poet who sets the mad tangle into motion. LeFevre has exquisite comic phrasing — the subtle kind — and, combined with his amusingly accurate British accent of a certain class, he makes the production sing.

The other standout is Christian Conn as Damis, the young, deliciously pretentious poet and potential suitor for Francalou’s poetry-groupie daughter, Lucille. Conn covers it in four Fs: fast, furious and fabulously foppish. He is everything you could hope for in a twerp and an absolutely scene stealer. More, please.

Having fun with Lucille and making the most of Ives’ comical modern references, Amelia Pedlow offers memorable girl silliness. Bringing some Bette Midler-esque accessibility is a nicely-charismatic Dina Thomas as Lisette, the maid with a mission, while Anthony Roach gives his suitor Dorante the requisite frantic male energy. Though Michael Goldstrom almost over-smarms his servant Mondor, he gets it right as the hijinks escalate. As Baliveau, grumpy uncle to the feckless Damis, Peter Kybart hits the buffo note.

As adaptations go, this may be a down-to-the-nails restoration, but it’s built for a new century with laughs that will last.

To March 8. Lansburgh Theatre, 450 7th St. NW. Call 202-547-1122 or visit shakespearetheatre.org.

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